It’s been over a year since the Oct. 26 University of Central Arkansas campus shooting, and the four individuals authorities believe to be responsible are still being held without bond, each facing identical charges including two counts of capital murder for the deaths of students Ryan Henderson, 18, of Little Rock, and Chavares Block, 19, of Dermott.
The four, who were not UCA students, continue to plead not guilty. 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Marcus Vaden said on Tuesday that he expects trial dates to be set in early 2010.
The four suspects have had numerous pretrials since they were taken into custody, and one suspect, Kelcey Perry, 20, has had a few hearings in which his attorney, Teresa Bloodman, petitioned the court to set a bond. These attempts were unsuccessful.
In one of these hearings, Capt. Justin Tapley of UCAPD said that his department had obtained "evidence from a number of people that this individual (Perry) fired the weapon."
Bloodman voluntarily removed herself from Perry’s defense in September, and the Arkansas Public Defenders Commission has since appointed Jeff Rosenzweig to represent him.
Perry’s co-defendants, 20-year-old Kawin Brockman and 21-year-olds Mario Toney and Brandon Wade, are being represented by Michael Sutterfield, Denise Fletcher and Frank Shaw, respectively.
No motions to suppress evidence have been successfully made during the pretrials for the four suspects, Vaden said, adding that the state plans to present at the trials both physical evidence and statements made by witnesses and others involved, including the suspects.
Tapley said on Tuesday that investigators still believe the motive for the shooting may be linked with a shooting incident at Pine Bluff’s Jefferson Square shopping center at about 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 26.
In this incident, a 19-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man were injured by gunfire as someone fired into a crowd of people celebrating the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s homecoming football game. The male victim "could not give any information on the shooter" when questioned at a Pine Bluff hospital, according to a Pine Bluff Police Department report of the incident, but the female victim, who was hit by a ricochet, said the shooter was a black male "around five foot two inches ... wearing a black shirt with an orange racing jacket," according to the PBPD report.
Lt. Bob Rawlinson of PBPD said on Tuesday that to his knowledge no one had been arrested in relation to this incident, and that his department had worked with UCAPD to investigate a link between the two shootings but wouldn’t comment on what that link may have been.
Tapley said UCAPD investigators continue to believe that the two students killed had no involvement with either the Pine Bluff incident or the suspects. A third victim, Martrevius Norman of Blytheville, who was not a UCA student, was treated and released on that night for a gunshot wound to the thigh.
According to information released by UCAPD in the days after the shooting, the four suspects are alleged to have driven onto the campus in a white, older-model Chevrolet Blazer and one of them fired several shots into a crowd of people gathered outside of Arkansas Hall.
"It amazes me that someone would fire into a crowd like that," Vaden said on Tuesday.
A UCAPD officer responding to the shooting was able to stop the Blazer on Dave Ward Drive and arrest its sole occupant, who was the first of the suspects to be taken into custody. Within 24 hours the remaining three suspects turned themselves in to UCAPD. UCAPD also recovered a semiautomatic handgun believed to have been used in the shooting, though authorities have not disclosed the make of the weapon or the results of ballistics tests intended to determine if the weapon fired the bullets recovered from the scene.
A Conway Police Department incident report filed on July 11, 2008, lists Brockman as a person of interest in the theft of a Springfield Model 1911 handgun during an early morning party at a Conway home. Insufficient evidence was found to charge Brockman with the theft, according to CPD public information officer Sharen Carter.
Vaden said in September that the handgun alleged to have been fired by Perry in the fatal shooting did not match the description of the one stolen in July 2008, but that a similar weapon may have played a role in the chain of events that lead to the UCA shooting. Vaden said on Tuesday that this is still his understanding, but wouldn’t elaborate.
Brockman, Wade and Toney are scheduled to appear for pretrial on Nov. 13. Perry is scheduled to appear for pretrial on Dec. 21.
As a result of the shooting, UCA has tightened campus security with the implementation of a new alert system that includes cell phone alerts and an alert siren, mandatory campus security meetings for faculty, staff and student leaders and a "behavioral intervention plan that helps to locate a particular person who we may have some concerns about," according to Lt. Rhonda Swindle of UCAPD.
"We now have a committee who will meet and go over the policy should anyone bring up a student or faculty/staff member who may have a problem, and they’ll see what needs to be done," Swindle said.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)